Two days after being granted bail, Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita and Students’ Islamic Organisation activist Asif Iqbal Tanha walked out of Tihar prison in Delhi on Thursday, following a court’s order asking for their immediate release in a case related to the Delhi riots 2020.
Natasha Narwal, 32, and Devangana Kalita, 31, and Asif Iqbal Tanah, 25, were arrested in May last year over alleged links to the Delhi riots and charged with conspiracy under anti-terror law UAPA.
Narwal and Kalita are JNU students associated with Pinjra Tod, a collective of communist women students of — and alumni from — colleges and universities across Delhi, who fight for women’s rights. The Pinjra Tod activists were in jail despite the bail order by the Delhi High Court. So, the Delhi court ordered their immediate release earlier today.
Director General (Delhi Prisons) Sandeep Goel said that all the three Pinjra Tod activists had been released. A senior jail official said Kalita and Narwal walked out of jail around 7 PM and Tanha around 7:30 PM.
After being released, Tanha said, “Kept hope that I will be released one day; fight against CAA, NRC, NPR will continue.”
The Supreme Court on Friday will hear an appeal filed by the Delhi Police challenging the bail of the Pinjra Tod activists.
Pinjra Tod activists Narwal, Kalita, and Tanha had been booked under the UAPA anti-terror law for their alleged role in the Delhi riots last year.
In yet another instance showing the leftist bias of the Indian judiciary, the high court had on 15 June had granted bail to two JNU students Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita and a Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha saying, in its anxiety to suppress dissent, the state had blurred the line between right to protest and terrorist activity and if such a mindset gains traction, it would be a “sad day for democracy”.
Terming as “somewhat vague” the definition of ‘terrorist act’ under the stringent UAPA laws and warning against its use in a “cavalier manner”, the high court set aside the trial court orders denying bail to the student activists.
“We are of the view that the foundations of our nation stand on surer footing than to be likely to be shaken by a protest, however vicious, organised by a tribe of college students or other persons, operating as a coordination committee from the confines of a University situate in the heart of Delhi,” the high court had said.
Today, Additional Sessions Judge Ravinder Bedi issued the release warrants at 11 AM. The lawyers for the Pinjra Tod activists had argued before the Delhi High Court for their immediate release. The Delhi High Court had observed that the trial court must expedite the proceedings following which it adjourned the matter.
In the order, Bedi wrote: “From the circumstances forwarded by the IO, I observe that at least the verification process qua sureties must have been filed by 1:00 PM yesterday all sureties are residents of Delhi. Apropos the the reason forwarded by the IO that verification qua accused’s permanent address would need time. I would say this by itself cannot be a plausible reason for the accused to be kept imprisoned till the time such reports are filed.”
The court said that since the verification process would require some time, the report on this would be filed by the IO on or before 23 June at 2:30 PM with the concerned court.
The court directed the police to verify the address of the accused and submit it at 5 PM today.
Yesterday, Bedi had deferred the passing of order on the immediate release citing a “heavy board of bail applications” listed before it. The three accused persons had then approached the HC seeking immediate release.
Senior advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, who appeared on behalf of Tanha, said, “Once an order of bail is passed, it can’t be obstructed for administrative or ministerial reasons. I can be released and they can go ahead with verification. If it is an issue of verification, I am accused and they surely know where I stay. My address forms a part of their charge sheet… if it found that there is some problem, I will be back in custody.”
To this, Justice Mridul said, “At the highest, we can only express that the proceedings before the high court must be conducted expeditiously.”
Aggarwal told the high court that “by not taking a decision on the application, the trial court has taken a view”.
Advocate Adit Pujari, appearing on behalf Narwal and Kalita, said, “What the Delhi Police has done is that they have very cleverly verified one surety for each appellant and said that there is an error regarding the second surety. The deficiencies are that they did not record the statements of the sureties or neighbours and these were pointed out when they came to our sureties’ houses.”
“Obviously we expect the trial court to expedite the proceedings… This has to be done at a reasonable time. This cannot be an open process,” Justice Mridul said.
Special Public Prosecutor Amit Prasad had told the high court that imputations are being passed on the state while they were only following orders of the court.
Prasad had told the high court, “The bail bond was given at 4:10 (PM) the Special Cell got it at 5.30. We were expected to file the report by 1 PM (the next day). All the verification had to be done by one day… during verification, certain glaring facts have come. We are not obstructing the release. We don’t have magical powers to verify from Assam and Jharkhand, addresses have certain glaring discrepancies.”